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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Referendum Campaign Style Irritates Russians

As society gears up for the April 25 referendum, political passions continue to run high. In a display of campaigning uncomfortably reminiscent of the U. S. presidential elections, the main rivals are out on the trail, courting interest groups and gathering endorsements.

This is quite a new phenomenon for the long-suffering Russian electorate, who seem to be a bit impatient with the more circus-like aspects of the vote-gathering process. They can perhaps be forgiven for a certain peevishness, evident in this letter to Rossiiskaya Gazeta from Artem Smolyanoi, a student at the Moscow Engineering and Construction Institute:

"On April 12 in the Palace of Culture at the Moscow Aviation Factory, an event took place that was billed as 'A meeting of the president with the students of the Russian Federation'. But those that gathered did not, by any means, represent all the students in Russia. Many in the hall had not been students for quite some time.

"Yeltsin and his team did not give substantive answers to the questions from the audience. It seemed that they wanted to turn this meeting into some kind of entertainment spectacle".

Everybody seems to have a position in this fight, and various groups have felt compelled to take a stand. But politics seems to be invading even the most sacred of relationships -- a man and his sports team.

V. Dmitriyev, a self-described Spartak fan writes to Sovietskaya Rossiya:

"I heard on Russian Radio that the Spartak soccer players had a meeting at which they declared support for President Yeltsin and asked their fans to vote for him. I, personally, am a loyal fan of the team and will continue to support it. But what has support for Yeltsin got to do with anything? I do not blame my favorite athletes for this announcement. I am sure that this strange idea did not originate with them".

The fascination with informal polls seems to be continuing. This letter from another Sovietskaya Rossiya reader, A. Ponomaryova, from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, demonstrates the dangers of a more personal approach to opinion-gathering:

"I read a letter from another reader called 'Thirty people polled' and decided to conduct my own experiment.

"I was sitting in the polyclinic the other day, waiting to see the dentist. There were 13 of us, sitting around, discussing our ailments. We got to politics -- should we take part in the referendum or not? One elderly woman said 'I am for Yeltsin! ' You should have seen the reaction! The kindest response was, 'You're out of your mind! ' It got so bad she had to be sedated by the medical personnel there".